WaPo: Obama admin considered attacking AQ in north Africa before Benghazi attack
posted at 10:41 am on October 2, 2012 by Ed Morrissey
This curious story comes from unnamed US officials to the Washington Post, but it’s difficult to understand who’s leaking it and why. The story itself — that the Obama administration considered launching attacks against al-Qaeda in north Africa — may be intended to shore up Barack Obama’s standing on terrorism and national security, which has taken body blows since the 9/11 anniversary attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the first US Ambassador murdered in the line of duty since 1979. However, the acknowledgment that the White House knew of the terrorist danger growing in north Africa raises even more questions about Benghazi:
The White House has held a series of secret meetings in recent months to examine the threat posed by al-Qaeda’s franchise in North Africa and consider for the first time whether to prepare for unilateral strikes, U.S. officials said.
The deliberations reflect concern that al-Qaeda’s African affiliate has become more dangerous since gaining control of large pockets of territory in Mali and acquiring weapons from post-revolution Libya. The discussions predate the Sept. 11 attacks on U.S. compounds in Libya but gained urgency after the assaults there were linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM.
U.S. officials said the discussions have focused on ways to help regional militaries confront al-Qaeda but have also explored the possibility of direct U.S. intervention if the terrorist group continues unchecked.
“Right now, we’re not in position to do much about it,” said a senior U.S. counterterrorism official involved in the talks. As a result, he said, officials have begun to consider contingencies, including the question of “do we or don’t we” deploy drones.
In other words, no one was confused about the danger rising in north Africa following Obama’s effort to bomb Moammar Qaddafi out of power. The region had become rife with radical Islamist terror networks, especially AQ, to the point where the Obama administration began to believe it had to start military operations against them. If that was the case, then how could the Benghazi consulate have been left so unsecured? Why did the US send Ambassador Chris Stevens into Benghazi at all, let alone so publicly, with such a minimal security force to defend him and the diplomatic mission?
Most importantly, why did this same White House insist for more than a week after the attack that this was a spontaneous protest that “spun out of control,” and that they had no evidence that it was a preplanned terrorist attack? After all, these networks don’t just sit around planning press releases. They plan terrorist attacks, primarily against the US and other Westerners, and they look for targets of opportunity — like a lightly-guarded consulate located in their own back yard. This story makes it pretty clear that the Obama administration tried for more than a week to deceive the American public rather than just regurgitate supposedly erroneous spot intel after the attack.
Eli Lake provides another data point at The Daily Beast for this conclusion, and there is no mystery about the intention of the sources in this case. Not only were there an additional attack on the Benghazi consulate this year that went unreported, it turns out that terror networks had openly and repeatedly threatened the consulate in the weeks leading up to the anniversary of 9/11:
Jihadists twice set off explosives at the consulate prior to the incident that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, and announced threats on Facebook about escalating attacks on Western targets in the run-up to the 9/11 anniversary, according to whistleblowers reaching out to House Republicans.
In the five months leading up to this year’s 9/11 anniversary, there were two bombings on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and increasing threats to and attacks on the Libyan nationals hired to provide security at the U.S. missions in Tripoli and Benghazi.
Details on these alleged incidents stem in part from the testimony of a handful of whistleblowers who approached the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in the days and weeks following the attack on the Benghazi consulate. The incidents are disclosed in a letter to be sent Tuesday to Hillary Clinton from Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the oversight committee’s subcommittee that deals with national security. …
The new information disclosed in the letter obtained by The Daily Beast strongly suggests the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the late Ambassador Chris Stevens were known by U.S. security personnel to be targets for terrorists. Indeed, the terrorists made their threats openly on Facebook.
Like I wrote earlier, incompetence and dishonesty go together hand in hand — and we’re seeing plenty of both from Obama and his team in the wake of the Benghazi terrorist attack. The White House and State Department were asleep at the switch before the 9/11 anniversary attack, and they’ve been lying ever since about the circumstances behind it, too.
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